Sunday, 12 August 2018

First baby naming in Ringwood Meeting House for at least 40 years #Unitarians

After our gathering for reverence on 12th August 2018, the Meeting House became the host for a baby naming ceremony.  It was with great pleasure that we welcomed a couple, whose wedding in 2014 had also been the first wedding to be held in the Meeting House for at least forty years, with their son and the usual cohort of god-parents.

Our president involved everyone, inviting those of 11 years and under to come and change the ordinary tap water into blessed water for the ceremony.  The children each poured some water into the 90 year old font, then made it special by placing their fingers in the font along with their wish for the the baby being dedicated.  The assembled company asked for divine blessing on the water and, through it, the baby.

A happy occasion that we hope to see repeated in the Meeting House in the coming years!

Bending the back to the burden - we considered an affirmative approach to suffering at our gathering in August 2018 #Unitarians

All lives include pain and suffering, said our president for the day (Rev Martin Whitell).  The trick is knowing where to seek the resources to bear the suffering when it happens, rather than to rail against it and grind oneself down even harder with resentment of it.

It requires a degree of maturity and experimentation to be able to reconcile different pieces of advice regarding how to cope with pain. The Bible, for instance, contradicts itself: James declares we should welcome trials as a means of self-improvement (notably regarding our faith); whereas Genesis makes it quite clear that the suffering and pain of Adam and Eve left them considerably worse off than they were before.

We had readings from Harold S Kushner, a progressive conservative Rabbi who has written the book "When bad things happen to good people," and a poem "Go Boldly" from Unitarian Universalist poet Jean M Olson.  We were invited, like the Jewish psalmist, to seek our help from the greatness revealed to us in the hills; and from the Hindu faith there was a rule that we should act as possible to extract good even from the horrid and even poisonous circumstances we find ourselves in.

We had classical and modern hymns and a well known contemporary song that is rapidly becoming a hymn for many: "You raise me up".

In the mix were our usual periods of silence for reflection on what has been said.  Also, simple ritual, in which participants determine the meaning they personally find in the actions rather than trying to 'believe in' meanings ascribed by anyone else.  There was a period for meditation practice for those who wanted it, and we lit candles for issues of importance to us.

It was delightful to welcome some new faces to our gathering.  We are growing all the time and are ready to adapt and change as the combination of experiences, struggles, preferences and skills flex and flow, depending on who is in the gathering.  We do not expect to be the same month to month; in fact we live in the expectation of being quite changed by new participants.  This is the joy and resilience we take from living and journeying together as a community, rather than being solo travellers.  If you would like to come along and make a difference to us and to yourself we would love to see you.

If you are receiving this because you have given us your email address, you might like to take back control by subscribing directly to our blog at the site (follow the instructions near the top).  You can unsubscribe at any time.   You can also find us on Facebook ("Ringwood Unitarians") and Twitter (@RingwoodUnitari).

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.  Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
  Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Unmaking the World - a conversation about how we respond to the ecological crisis #unitarians #inclusiveunitarians

We did not know, when we booked the evening for a talk on environmental ethics, that the England football team would be playing Colombia for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals on that same evening.  Fortunately, owing to the big screen in the pub garden across the alley, the people who had come to the talk were able to - more or less - keep track of the match as well as the talk!

So not surprisingly we were a small group of people meeting together to hear Dr Claire Foster-Gilbert, but that had the advantage that we were able to have a proper conversation rather than a formal lecture and Q&A session afterwards.

Claire started with the 20th century philosopher, Heidegger, who had identified that the mindset that views everything in our surroundings to be ‘stuff we can take and use’, is probably one of the root causes of the ecological difficulties we find ourselves in today.  Claire reminded us that humans had probably always had that mindset, which had of course led to much good, when viewed from our human standpoint; not least in medicine and dentistry and extension of human life.  Our difficulty is not that we have changed, but rather that we have become so numerous.  Whereas we could get away with treating the Earth as a treasure storehouse when there were fewer of us, we cannot behave like that any more.  The Earth is showing signs now of the change that we have caused, and humans are now suffering along with it.  We need to find a new way of seeing, because when we see differently we will think differently and act differently.

In particular, Claire contends, we have lost connection.  We view ourselves as tenants, stewards or even masters of the Earth, rather than small but integral elements within the entire eco-system.  We fail to recognise that the reason we feel so much better when we go out of doors and do what we call reconnecting with nature, is that we have evolved in it, as part of it, suffused by the dynamic interrelationships that is the only realistic way of defining ecology.  Of course being out there makes us feel better: out there we shed our skewed perception that puts us at the centre of a set of ‘things’ we imagine we can control.

As we have lost connection, we march along the road of technological progress making judgments that, with hindsight, do little but penalise the ecosystem - and hence ourselves along with it.  Only when we have changed our way of seeing will we be able to act in concert with our environment, and thus protect our dwelling place in the long term.

To help us see a practical way of changing the way we see, Claire led a guided meditation through the five spheres of the Earth: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere, the pedosphere and the biosphere.  We were invited to take several images away with us, to bring to mind in our daily activities; images that will change our perspective on our activities on a domestic and intimate level.

We noted that while it is possible for us to act at a distance to help other humans who now suffer from ecological impacts, it may in the end be more effective to act locally in tune with the five spheres, then trust the five spheres to help our fellow humans at a distance.  After all, as one participant pointed out: when we think we need to feed our plants, we are wrong, and actually, we can’t, because that happens at a cellular level.  What we need to do is to feed and tend the soil, and the soil will feed the plants.

[The lithosphere and pedosphere
The lithosphere is the outer crust of the earth, some 120 km thick, rock floating on molten rock.  The pedosphere is the soil that lies on top of the lithosphere like skin on flesh, about half a metre thick, made of sand, clay, silt and organic matter.  It acts like a cleansing and protecting membrane between the lithosphere and the atmosphere. 

The biosphere
The biosphere is the sum of all the habitats in which species live. ]

When you next find yourself walking, feel the air on your face, become aware of your breathing, and realise the total and automatic dependence of the life of your body on the atmosphere.  Gain a sense of ‘being breathed’ rather than the other way around.  See how the air is one thing: wind, breath, invisibly supporting, moving and enlivening all things.

Become aware that this same atmosphere is warming up and that for some living things, human, animal and plant, the 21st century will see the final destruction of their habitats and their livelihoods.

When you next do something involving water, such as drinking a glass of it, watering a plant, or taking a shower, become aware of the cycle of water through the universe.  Become aware of it travelling to where it is needed, for nourishment, growth or cleansing.  Think of the water of baptism, by which you affirm your responsibility to the whole community.  Think of water as embodying the possibility of rebirth, empowerment, and the hope of a renewed creation.  
In the rainfall, in rivers and oceans, in watersheds, in your drinking, your washing and your tears, water cleanses, nourishes and heals.
Polluted water transforms nourishment into poison.  Absence of water kills very quickly, but not quickly enough for the terrible suffering of thirsty people and land.  
Become aware that today, 2 billion people live without safe water supplies.

Lithosphere & Pedosphere:
When you are next in a garden, crumble some soil in your bare hands and smell its rich aromas.  Think of the life growing in the soil, the way the soil nurtures and sustains new life, holds the seeds and shelters the roots, becomes the foundation from which the plant grows.  If you are weeding, notice how the earth holds on to her own as you gently dislodge roots from the soil.  Notice how the actions of your hands affect the soil well or badly.  Become aware of the cycle of life and death, of how we kill what we do not know, carelessly, uncaringly; and how the mending of the world that is to be done is beyond our power to do.

Bring to mind the glorious, unimaginably numerous diversity of all living things.  There are not even two blades of grass that are the same.  Think of this biological diversity as a web of interrelationship that sustains all life on the planet, including your own.  You are not a tenant of the earth, you do not exist on its surface or despite its terrain.  You evolved with every bit of it, and that shared history is deep within you.  That is why the natural world has the power to restore you.  

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Next gathering under the #Unitarian banner in Ringwood is on 12th August

From time to time there are constraints on our gatherings.  This July a set of events has occurred which means it will not be possible for us to gather either on our usual second Sunday of the month, or an alternate Sunday.

So this July we are not gathering for reverence.  Our next gathering will be at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday 12th August, when we will welcome Rev Martin Whitell to lead our thoughts.

Instead, on the second Sunday of July, some of us will be enjoying the Ringwood Pedal Car Grand Prix - an event which takes over the whole town with great fun and enjoyment for all the family. 

And on the third Sunday of July, some of us will be joining in with the wonderful LGBTIQ+ festival in Bournemouth - "Bourne Free".

So instead of seeing you in the Meeting House in July, perhaps we'll see you at one of those!